There is a generation coming through school now, and entering the work force – it’s already a powerful consumer segment – that hasn’t really waited for anything.
And our business world isn’t quite ready for them, as I discussed in a previous column.
In looking at generational differences, from the Old Guard up to the Millennials, three ramifications are evident in terms of the immediate impact on consumerism, institutions and the economy, before taking management into account.
There is some gut wrenching change on the way.
Implications on economy
1. We are witnessing a legitimate structural change. Since I started in business, I have felt like I’m the last of a dying breed: the trailing edge of generations to have been taught grammar in school, to look to more experienced business people for leadership, to place a premium on professionalism, and to be scared to not work really hard. Millennials don’t think this way and they haven’t grown up under this mode of thinking. It’s not arrogance. It’s simply a different outlook. Governments, educational institutions and businesses are going to have to work hard, and work together, to manage the transition. Business owners need to get used to the idea of allocating time to solve problems larger than their own enterprise.
2. We are seeing a shift in marketing that will continue and accelerate. Online advertising spending has increased steadily over the past five years, and it comes from greater marketing spend and from a share of more traditional media such as print and direct marketing. Retailers and B2Bs are doing more business online, with no direct customer contact. And social media is serving as a mechanism for branding, advertising, communications, PR and feedback. The next stage, fuelled by smart phones and tablets, is a fully mobile digital world, where consumers, and B2B customers, will expect instant access to basic information, specs, how-to’s, reviews and ecommerce platforms 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the world. As a result, static campaigns will decrease in importance and dynamic, algorithm-driven marketing will rule the day.
3. The Millennials really jump out. I think they get a bad rap. I often hear them described as instantly gratified and entitled. The former might be true but the latter is unfair. It’s not their fault they have been over-parented, over-structured, over-activity-programmed, and over-attention-granted since birth. It’s the instant and efficient piece that is alarming. This is a cohort that has achieved a high degree of success while still enjoying much free time, because most waiting and inefficiency has been removed from their lives. For example, it’s possible for a student to get straight A’s, hang out with friends and watch lots of TV because the school system bar has not been sufficiently reset to account for the rapid pace at which knowledge can be taken in and work can be cranked out. Some professions are really in for it. For example, in professional service firms Millennials may well look at endless hours and long paths to success, and largely reject those notions.
Implications on management
You are already likely receiving more job applications than normal. Since Millennials like to choose their own path and don’t place value in institutions, it is more likely that private businesses will be sought-after destinations for this crowd. They will bring enthusiasm and pace to your firm like you can’t believe, but they will also bring headaches. Change – some likely long overdue, and some which will be tricky to manage – is coming. “High maintenance” would probably be a fair prediction for this cohort. More complicating, for the first time, perhaps ever, we are going to have three distinct generations, each with very different views on the world, working together inside companies. A total nightmare for culture building. As an owner/operator, fostering and managing culture will rocket up your priority list.
For the coming wave of Millennials, according to experts, like Diane Thielfoldt and Devon Scheef, managers need to provide a structured work environment and manage these folks interactively. I agree, and would extend to say:
1. If you have any routine functions in your business, you should be thinking about converting from that continuous approach (process and administration) to a project-orientation (chunks of work with starts and ends) right now. Outsource if need be. Millennials are used to structure and won’t put up with boredom.
2. You should think about starting to have more casual feedback sessions with employees, or have your managers do so, weekly – better yet, get into a continuous mentorship dialogue mindset – immediately, as Millennials are used to almost instantaneous feedback, not one-per-year reviews.
3. If you run a business that counts on employees working a lot of ‘unpaid’ overtime and weekends (I’m thinking mainly of professional services here), your business is likely going to change. You should a) strip out inefficiency by investing in technology (e.g. a knowledge management system), b) change your talent/pay mix, or worse c) think about managing clients to not expect differences in communication and style. I just don’t see many Millennials working 80+ hour weeks.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Healy, P.Eng, MBA, is a partner at Satov Consultants – a management consultancy with practice areas in corporate strategy, customer strategy and operations strategy. Mark’s focus areas inside the customer strategy practice include consumer insights, customer experience, innovation and go-to-market strategy. He is a regular speaker and media contributor on topics ranging from marketing to strategy, in telecom, retail and other sectors. Mark is known as much for his penchant for loud socks and a healthy NFL football obsession as he is for his commitment to Ivey and recent Ivey grads. He currently serves as chair of the Ivey Alumni Association board of directors. Mark lives with his wife Charlotte and their bulldog McDuff in Toronto.